Wednesday, November 13, 2019

theatre upgrades | accessibility at PT!

NexGen Hearing representative Susan with our official hearing loop signage!

We're excited to announce two improvements to help make Pacific Theatre more accessible!
Our extremely generous sponsor, NexGen Hearing West Broadway is our partner in obtaining a hearing loop for the theatre.


What is a hearing loop?
A hearing loop system wirelessly transmits audio from the mixing console discreetly and conveniently to the recipient's hearing aids when the “T-Coil” function (found on most hearing aids or hearing aid remotes) are switched on.

How does it work?
A dedicated loop amplifier sends the audio signal into a very thin copper foil that has been invisibly installed under the seats in the auditorium. Anyone within the “looped” area can switch on their hearing aids to the “T-Coil” position to wirelessly receive a very clear and engaging signal directly to their earpiece.
If you don't use a hearing aid, a limited number of receiver units are available for you to borrow for the show!


We have also introduced relaxed performances – our first relaxed performance is our Christmas Carol matinee on December 8th at 2pm.

Relaxed Performances are designed to welcome audience members who will benefit from a more relaxed sensory experience and casual environment, including (but not limited to) patrons with an Autism Spectrum condition, a sensory processing disorder, or a learning disability.
There is a more relaxed approach to noise and movement within the theatre space; some minor production changes may be made to reduce the intensity of light, sound and other effects which might be startling.

These shows are for anyone. Many other people may choose to attend a relaxed performance, either as an access requirement or because they like the inclusive environment.
And lastly, a reminder of our financially accessible dates: our previews are always pay-what-you-can, and Wednesday night performances are only $20!

Thank you for coming to Pacific Theatre and joining us in our commitment in bringing as many people as possible into this magical world.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

the man who invented christmas | les standiford

With A Christmas Carol just around the bend, here is a timely excerpt from the preface of "The Man Who Invented Christmas" by Les Standiford.

In London, in 1824, it was the custom to treat a debtor little differently from a man who had reached into a purse and stolen a similar sum. In this case, he was a father of seven, and though he was gainfully employed, it was not gainful enough. His debt was to a baker, a man named Karr, who lived in Camden Street, and the sum was forty pounds, no small amount in those days, when an oyster was a penny, a whole salmon a pound and six, and a clerk who worked for a tightfisted miser in a countinghouse might not earn as much in a year.

Accounts were tallied, the sheriff was consulted, and men were sent in consequence. Our father – John his name, and thirty-seven – was taken by the sheriff's men to what was called a "sponging house," a kind of purgatory where those who could not meet their obligations were afforded some few days to seek relief from their creditors' charges, intervention from a person of influence, or possibly a loan from family or friends.

In this instance, help was not forthcoming. Two days passed with no good word, and then our John, officially an insolvent debtor, was passed along to the Marshalsea, imprisoned alongside smugglers, mutineers, and pirates. "The sun has set on me, forever," he told his family as he left.

One who tried to help was a son of John, who, then twelve, took a job, at six shillings a week in a tumbledown factory-house that sat on the banks of the River Thames. One day long afterwards the boy would speak of the place, "Its wainscoted rooms and its rotten floors and staircase, and the old grey rats swarming down in the cellars, and the sound of their squeaking and scuffling coming up the stairs at all times, and the dirt and decay of the place, rise up visibly before me, as if I were there again."

His job was to fill small pots with shoe blacking, and tie them off with paper, and then to paste on each a printed label. The boy worked ten hours a day, standing near a window for better light and where any passersby might see him, with a break for a meal at noon, and one for tea later on. And though the place was grim and the work was numbing, and this had put his childhood to an end, he worked on. For his father was in prison. For a debt of forty pounds. For his family's bread.

"My whole nature was so penetrated with the grief and humiliation of such considerations," the boy would one day write, "that even now... I often forget in my dreams that I have a dear wife and children; even that I am a man; and [I] wander desolately back to that time of my life."

While these words testify to the force of a childhood blow, they also offer reassurance that there would one day come a lightening of his circumstances. That the boy would not spend forever in his dismal occupation, nor would his father stay forever in the Marshalsea, though there were three long months there, with our young man visiting his father in a tiny room behind high spiked walls, and where, the boy recalls, they "cried very much."

And where his father told him "to take warning by the Marshalsea, and to observe that if a man had twenty pounds a year, and spent nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and six-pence, he would be happy; but that shilling spent the other way would make him wretched." These words of caution, and lament, and more, and then at 10:00 p.m. the warning bell would toll and our young man of twelve would walk out into the foggy London night, five miles toward home, and some hours of oblivion before the scurrying, and the squealing, and the little pots of blacking came again.

The boy's name was Charles, of course, and his family's name was Dickens.

nov 11 - 17 | jake's gift

What perfect timing! JAKE'S GIFT is in town for Remembrance Day week. This beautiful one-person show has played all over Canada for years now, including a short run at Pacific Theatre back in 2011. But the PT roots go deeper; the character of Jake was born in a three week Mask Characterization workshop in 2002, which led to our Christmas production that year, MERCY WILD - with both Julia and Dirk Van Stralen in the cast. Welcome home, Jake!

Presentation House
Nov 11-17

We're deeply honoured to present Jake's Gift on Remembrance Day and throughout the week that follows. Described by playwright, Julia Mackey as a “love letter of thanks to all our veterans”, this beloved Canadian drama will continue at Presentation House Theatre from Nov 11 - 17.

Surprisingly funny, Jake’s Gift tells the story of a Canadian World War II veteran’s reluctant return to Normandy, France, to find the grave of the brother who never came home. While visiting the shores of Juno Beach, Jake encounters Isabelle, a precocious 10-year-old from the local village. Isabelle’s inquisitive nature and charm challenge the old soldier to confront some long-ignored ghosts. At its heart, Jake’s Gift is about the legacy of remembrance that personalizes the story behind one soldier’s grave.

Written by Julia Mackey
Directed by Dirk Van Stralen
Produced by Juno Productions
Sponsored by PARC Retirement Living

“We’re thrilled to be back in North Vancouver throughout Remembrance Day week to honour our veterans, and the memory of all those young men and women who never got to come home especially in this 75th Anniversary year of D-Day." Julia Mackey, Playwright & Performer

“Moving, poignant, exceptionally funny and timeless ... one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen.” Karen Jeffery, Sunset Theatre

kwerks | find your loud

Director Jason Goode shared this with me back in the summer, and I was so moved. The song made its very powerful debut at Christmas Presence a couple years ago, and this video - this short film, really - more than does it justice. Laura and Ryan ("The Kwerks") have become an essential part of our Christmas Presence celebrations, Jason directed the celebrated production of DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA at Pacific Theatre, and actors Shauna Johannesen (COMMON GRACE, WITTENBERG) and Aleks Paunovic (DANNY) are also PT folks. Such a beautiful piece of film. Three fully realized stories in five minutes? Altman in miniature.

the kwerks

nov 8/9 | foolin' around: the bard's best bits | pt apprents

A Night of the Bard's Best Bits
Nov 8th @ 8pm
Nov 9th @ 2pm and 8pm

Run Time: 40 mins
Pay What You Think It's Worth After The Show

Featuring: Chantal Gallant, Nicola Shannon and Jade Munsie
Directed by: Julia Siedlanowska

If you're looking for a laugh and a romp with Shakespeare's best bits, our apprentice project is for you. With scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and As You Like It, we explore Shakespeare's fools in love, fools by profession and fools by accident.

This project came about from a desire to work together on a small project as well as an interest in clowning and comedy. We decided to choose Shakespeare’s works as our playground. Each of us brought two “fools” we’d like to play, as well as a theme song for each character. From that initial meeting, Foolin' Around was born.

We hope to see your friendly faces in the audience!

Chantal, Nicola and Jade

Thoughts from the director, Julia Siedlanowska:
“If art is not spiritual, it suffers from our human limitations.” -Richard Wagamese
When the apprentices (as each year three artists become lovingly known here at PT) approached me about directing a few of the Bard’s most famous fool scenes, I thought it was a great opportunity to keep my directing and Shakespeare study chops up. Moreover it was a way for me to give back to a program which gave me so very much. I was an apprentice here for the 2015/16 season. I am struck by these three artists: Chantal, Jade and Nicola. In them I recognize my own journey as an apprentice three years ago, how much I grew and changed throughout that year with my PT family, how much clarity and strength I gained, how much more I became because of it. As I see the work that these artists put into their first apprentice project, I look forward to seeing them a year from now, and observing what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown. Today they present you with a myriad of characters that give us the opportunity to see our own circumstances enacted- and perhaps let them go through laughter. Although these characters may be foolish, their feelings are all too real- and hopefully, if we have lived at all- recognizable. I thank you for being here and being part of the journey.
“If you find it hard to laugh at yourself, I would be happy to do it for you.” -Groucho Marx

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

frankenstein | program notes | julia lank

Pacific Theatre produces very little science fiction. Indeed, it’s rare to see the genre on stage at all. And yet, the questions asked by Shelley in 1816 - what differentiates human life from the monstrous? How can we make amends for our vilest acts? why were we gifted with the power to create, and to destroy? - reflect in every way the ideas Pacific Theatre was founded to explore.

Playwright Peter Church has created two previous radio-play adaptations for Pacific: beautiful period-inspired interpretations of Christmas stories It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. With returning cast members Matthew Simmons and Diana Squires and another sonic-based world to explore, it would have been easy to continue in the vein of those productions. But director Chris Lam chose to dig into the darker aspects of the story.

Frankenstein and his monster are a clear allegory for many things - one is the peril of thoughtless creation. Artists tend to idolize creation and creativity; they are, after all, bound to and dependent upon their ability to create. But Frankenstein looks through the glass at the decisions we make in pride and panic, and the dark spectres we raise when our vision narrows too far. The power of art - the ability to affect the mind and soul of a listener - is an awesome responsibility, when held to the light. Wherever our sympathies lie at the end of the story, Victor’s desire to transcend the limits of creativity is a dim mirror that hides in the back room of all artistic souls.

Pacific is thrilled to offer a glimpse down this dark road with the talented cast and crew of Wireless Wings, and to continue offering artists opportunities to create - with eyes wide open.

by Julia Lank

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

nov 1 | kwerks | 'find your loud' premiere party

The moment The Kwerks appeared on the CHRISTMAS PRESENCE stage a few years ago, they instantly became regulars. A couple years back they debuted a new tune, The Drum Song, that felt like a departure from their usual Kwerky, upbeat style. And this summer they retitled the song, and created a video with another Pacific Theatre guy, Jason Goode, who directed a memorable production of DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA in 2012. Jason gave me an advance look at it, and I was so moved; more than a music video, it's essentially a brilliant short film. Several terrific performances, including Shauna Johannesen (COMMON GRACE) and Aleks Paunovic (DANNY& THE DEEP BLUE SEA).

Laura Koch (head Kwerk) writes: "We’ve been working for a long time towards the release of our song “Find Your Loud” - you might remember it titled Drum Song when we played it at Christmas Presence. Well it’s re-titled, and we worked with Jason Goode’s production company to put together a beautiful music video which we’re showing at The Clova this Friday in a celebration of the release. There will be live music (by our band, of course), popcorn, the screening, a Q&A with cast & crew, and even some fancy new quirky merch."

The Kwerks
FIND YOUR LOUD release party and concert

fri nov 1 @ 7pm
clova theatre | 5732 176 street, surrey

Monday, October 28, 2019

allen desnoyers | pier 21

Allen Desnoyers co-founded Pacific Theatre with me, back in 1984. He still appears in Christmas Presence from time to time, and we've got a Christmas musical in the wings that would feature Allen as performer and Musical Director. But he's pretty busy with his own company, Canadiana Musical Theatre, that tours shows to communities and schools around western Canada. His new piece, Pier 21, played an extended run right at Pier 21 itself this summer, the Halifax entry point for over a million and a half migrants coming to Canada over the past century. There's a rare opportunity to see a public performance of the show this Saturday in Tsawwassen.

by Allen Desnoyers

sat nov 2 @ 7pm
South Delta Baptist Church
1988 56 St, Tsawwassen

tickets $20 online
or $25 at the door

“With the situation in the United States the past few years and the hostility towards people who are immigrants, a play that shows what it is like for people leaving a war-torn environment has been a ‘lesson in compassion.’ People have been profoundly moved. When you start exploring the level of suffering people have gone through, you get caught up in those stories, and you start to recognize the humanity you have in common with people.” Allen Desnoyers


The performance culminates a day-long writers conference sponsored by the Surrey & White Rock chapters of The Word Guild. I'll be speaking about writing my play TOLKIEN, Allen will talk about his process in writing a dozen historical musicals, and other speakers will include David Kitz, Rose Seiler Scott, and event sponsor Jim Martens. Information and registration here

Friday, October 25, 2019

oct 25/26 | curse of the demon

Pacific Cinematheque is screening one of Jacques Tourneur's fascinating, idiosyncratic, brilliant films in the lead-up to Halloween.  So if you've got a night when you're not seeing FRANKENSTEIN: LOST IN DARKNESS at Pacific Theatre, check this out.  I've long thought that this is the closest we're likely to get to a film version of a Charles Williams novel; the presence of dark supernatural powers in settings so ordinary and British the verge on the banal.  And while my Soul Food Movies write-up doesn't exactly sell the movie as a must-see, there are sequences that are unforgettable.  It's not something you'll get a lot of chances to see on a big screen.

Pacific Cinematheque
Fri Oct 25 @ 8:30
Sat Oct 26 @ 6:00

CURSE OF THE DEMON ("NIGHT OF THE DEMON," 1957, UK, Jacques Tourneur, Charles Bennett / Hal E. Chester / Cy Endfield screenplay, Montague R. James story)
You could learn a lot from children. They believe in things in the dark, although we tell them it's not so. Maybe we've been fooling them.

There's too much demon for me, and much too soon. I love Tourneur's grand theme – "I make films on the supernatural, and I make them because I believe in it" – and this, his last journey into the fantastique genre, is saturated with dialogue that goes straight to the heart of his favourite and most fascinating questions. But in this picture, I wonder if it isn't all a bit much? There's a thin line between theme and message, and when things get obvious we grow impatient.

Dr. John Holden (another of this director's uber-Yankee rationalist-materialists) travels to England to debunk a Satanic cult, only to be confronted with the reality of evil when he finds himself under a deadly ancient curse. He encounters any number of "believers," from seancing grannies and the sort of not-so-tourist-friendly British country folk who would later show up in STRAW DOGS and WICKER MAN to Fifties-sexy kindergarten teachers who won't take any of this guy's guff because they majored in psychology. (Reminds me of Dr Science: "And remember, he's smarter than you: 'I have a master's degree….'") None of whom make a dent in Doc Holden's boiler-plated and compulsive skepticism.

Problem is, the narrative deck is stacked against the good doctor from the outset, so there's no room for the sort of ambiguity and psychological suspense that make CAT PEOPLE and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE so effective. Is Irina right about this whole fatal feline thing, or is she psychologically troubled? For the longest time, we don't know, so we can at least empathize with (and many times even agree with) the common-sense perspective of her practical Americano boyfriend. In ZOMBIE, we never do really know what's nuts-n-bolts explicable and what's the legacy of the past and what's full-on voodoo "more in heaven and earth" supernatural stuff – or even whether the spiritual carryings-on are evil or benign.

But in CURSE, we spend almost a full minute with the demon only six minutes in, a twenty foot wolf-bear-godzilla type beast that walks out of the darkness in that gravity-free, jerky way bad movie monsters have, all covered in unkempt black hair and flames. Violins swirl, horn sections bombast, there's this screechy noise like the wheel on some kid's wagon needs to be oiled, and a guy in a bowler hat screams, panics and gets electrocuted. And I'm thinking, this is a Jacques Tourneur movie?

Not exactly, at least not according to Jacques. When JT signed off on this one there was no monster at the front end, and at the back, only a four-frame glimpse of something that might be a demon, or might not be. "The scenes in which you really see the demon were shot without me. The audience should never have been entirely sure…" The flaming black horned critter is courtesy of the producer, whose monster picture was darn well going to have a monster in it, thank you very much. "They ruined the film by showing it from the very beginning."

I'm afraid he's right. In a film that's completely preoccupied with questions of skepticism and belief, that's centred on a character whose stubborn commitment to scientific rationalism only slowly gives way to something… well, more rational… the presentation of a big, hairy, incontrovertibly real demon in Scene Two is a serious problem. When he first opens his mouth he's obviously just plain wrong about things, the audience knows better, and the more he opens that mouth, the more annoying he gets.

There are marvelous elements, though, in spite of studio tampering. When we first meet Dr Julian Karswell, the purported Satanist, he's playing cribbage with his old mum, and the film's most effective scene (loaded with ambivalence, irony and uncertainty) takes place at a party he holds for the local children, complete with clown nose and everyday magic tricks. "I see you practice white magic as well as black." "Oh yes, I don't think it would be too amusing for the youngsters if I conjured up a demon from hell for them." There's something about the scene's utter Englishness, and its suggestion that supernatural parlour games may cloak real occult forces, that could have come straight from one of the supernatural thrillers of Charles Williams,the author who was such an influence on C.S. Lewis, (particularly in That Hideous Strength). "You know, the devil has something here. Very pleasant." "He's most dangerous when he's being pleasant."

The best way to watch DEMON may be to imagine the film as the director intended it. Let go of the producer's certainty that there is a big, nasty demon, and give Doc Holden a chance by leaving things up in the air. After all, most of us share at least a measure of his skepticism, don't we? If not about all things spiritual, at least about ghosts and demons and things that aren't the family dog but do go bump in the night. The interfering Mister Chester's "real" Scary Monster only succeeds in robbing the film's real horror any sense of reality, and that sells Jacques Tourneur's vision sadly short: he would have defined things less, left more to the imagination. As they say at the end of the film, "Maybe it's better not to know."

Also by Jacques Tourneur

Cat People (1942)

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)

Stars In My Crown (1950)

Soul Food Movies index

Thursday, October 24, 2019

talkbacks | artist talkback & theatre club: ethical quandaries in biotechnology

This week we have back to back talkbacks for Frankenstein: Lost in Darkness!

Friday is our regular artist talkback after the show with you, the audience. After our Saturday matinee is Theatre Club, where this show's topic will be Frankenstein: Ethical Quandaries in Biotechnology.

Our two speakers are Holly Faith Nelson and Dennis Venema, professors at TWU, exploring the ethics of creation within Frankenstein: Lost in Darkness. Join us after our 2pm show for the lively discussion!

Holly Faith Nelson, Phd.

Professor and Chair of the English Department at TWU, Holly's areas of expertise include early modern British literature, British civil war literature, literature of the long eighteenth century, theology and literature, and politics and literature.

Dennis Venema, Phd.

Dennis' areas of expertise include developmental biology, cell and molecular biology, and genetics. He is an associate Biology professor at TWU.

susan alexander | mitchell prize

Susan Alexander is a longtime PT friend, and she's just won the Mitchell Prize for poetry. Must pick this one up - even if it didn't have a drive-in movie on the cover!

Bowen Island resident Susan Alexander has won a major literary prize. She was awarded the $20,000 Ross and Davis Mitchell Prize for her suite of poems, Vigil.

“Vigil is an outstanding collection that is highly deserving of first place,” said Lorna Goodison, a Mitchell Prize judge and acclaimed poet. “The writer is a talented and accomplished poet who handles the language of poetry with great authority, and the reader gets a strong sense that this is a voice rich in experience and wisdom. One also gets a sense that the poet speaks confidently on behalf of a large community of people; past and present, thus fulfilling one of the ancient roles of the poet as intermediary between humanity and the Divine.”

Alexander’s previous work has appeared in chapbooks, anthologies and several literary magazines. Her awards include the 2016 Short Grain poetry prize and the 2015 Vancouver Writers’ Festival Contest. She was longlisted for the 2018 CBC Poetry Prize and is currently featured on the bus in Vancouver’s Poetry in Transit. Judges selected her winning Mitchell Prize entry from among 250 nominees. The biennial Mitchell Prize seeks to recognize Canadian poets whose work wrestles with the beauty and complexity of religious faith. Three celebrated writers make up the panel of judges: Lorna Goodison, Chelene Knight, and Scott Cairns. The prize is a project of Image, a journal of contemporary art and literature, and is presented with support from think tank Cardus.

Alexander, author of The Dance Floor Tilts, has a BA in English from UBC and an MA in Theological Studies from Regent College.